The Beach – Book Versus Movie


I first read The Beach by Alex Garland when it was first published almost 12 years ago. I read it during a long flight and considering I always feel sleepy while traveling, I don’t think I did much justice to it. Ended up feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

The Beach is a story of Richard a young American backpacker who wants to be a traveler (not a tourist). When he visits Thailand he wants a unique experience. He wants to stray off the tourist beaten track. He meets a stranger who befriends him and talks to him about a lonely secret beach on an isolated island, and gives him a map to the place. Richard decides to explore the beach, and he convinces a young French couple to go with him. What follows next is a strange combination of Lord of the Flies and Stranger in a Strange Land.

Since I didn’t care too much for the book and because the movie had poor reviews, I wasn’t expecting any great stuff when I caught the movie last week. But, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

The movie is a very good-looking one. Leo di Caprio playing the role of the American tourist Richard, and Guillaume Canet and Virginie Ledoyen as the French couple look gorgeously sun-kissed. The backdrop of Thailand – both the sleazy bits and the beautiful beaches rock. Having been to Thailand a couple of years back, it was great to revisit it through this movie.

The phenomenal beach in the movie is actually Phi Phi Island

The phenomenal beach in the movie is actually Phi Phi Island

The story in the movie though diverges significantly from the book and I often found myself surprised by what was happening. For example, the romance between Richard and Francoise (which is not in the book) was alright and believable. But I found that to include the romance, some of the meat from the book was left out, making the movie a rather shallow adaptation. The latter part of the movie ends up being rushed and rather senseless, and leads to a very tame finale.

In spite of it all, this movie is pretty enjoyable. It may not suit everyone, but then the book is also a little blah. I did read this about 12 years ago when I was quite the innocent, and so found a lot of the drug and hippie philosophy somewhat off-putting.

But now if given a chance, I would love to spend months on the beach taking a break from all the daily stresses of my life and probably that’s why the movie now appeals to me so much 🙂 . I think if I re-read the book now, I might like it a lot better.

2 Responses
  • jillacox
    May 14, 2012

    I need to read this. Seems like it’s on the essential backpacker list. I thought I might find it in a hostel while traveling in Thailand, but nope.

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